Education isn't everything

Education isn’t a cure-all for economic problems, writes Peter Schrag in the Sacramento Bee.

Education is a necessary element of a successful high-tech economy; it’s emphatically necessary to help reduce social inequities, and imperative for civic and humanistic understanding and democratic unity. But it’s not enough in a high-tech global market where many jobs can be sent overseas at the click of a mouse.

Of course, India is a tough competitor because they’ve got a large class of well-educated people.

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  1. Excuse me, but Peter Schrag is a living example of why we need better educated people. This guy is a moron if he thinks I’m falling for his rhetoric. The dead giveaway this guy is living in la-la land is his jobs statistics. He quotes another apparent moron: “outsourcing can be said to have moved about 12 million U.S. jobs offshore. Even if the number is half that, it is quite substantial and far above that 300,000 figure currently being cited in many commentaries.” Apparently the information has to be good because it came from someone who once served in the Reagan Administration. Well, Bolshevik! It makes no sense. Try a little sanity check. According to the US Department of Labor, there are 7,647,000 unemployed to date in 2005 (Civilian unemployment over age 16). The high, based on a quick eyeball of the statistics on their site was in June of 2003. Then the number was 9,228,000. If 12 million jobs could be created by eliminating outsourcing, we would actually be in dire need of workers. But let’s go with half that – 6 million. That’s about 200,000 more jobs than the lowest level of unemployed since 1995, when there were about 5.4 million unemployed. This is patently absurd. I have never heard of negative unemployment (a worker surplus). Just think how much your next McGutBomb would cost if the local fast food joint had to pay a premium to STEAL workers from other fast food joints. Here are his other rants (and my rant-backs):

    • Bolster and depoliticize federal support for basic research and development. (Nobel effort, but the best way to depoliticize anything is to take it out of Washington.)

    • Replace the nation’s wasteful health care nonsystem (sic) with a single payer system, which would lift a large competitive burden from business (and relieve stress on state and local budgets). (Just like Canada and Britain, golly, I can’t wait – but I’ll have to if I want medical care. Thank God most of us are bi-laterally symmetrical. You only need one eye to see, one leg to hop, and one hand to thank the government for their concern.)

    • Develop a national energy policy, including higher gas taxes, to spur efficiency and sharply reduce dependence on imported oil and gas. (OK, higher taxes have always created jobs and spurred efficiency. IN GOVERNMENT, that is, where apparently one does not need much of an education beyond learning how to look like you are doing something when you actually aren’t.)

    • Restore the estate tax and other levies on high incomes to reduce public borrowing, improve the nation’s infrastructure and support improved funding for children’s and other social services. (By all means, tax the crap out of your sole-proprietor boss so he’ll keep you working for him. Oh, Corporations don’t pay taxes, people do. Tax the corporation means tax the people. Great, we’ll have less evil money to spend on all the stuff everyone is producing at the awesome 100% employment rate so we’ll export it and create even more jobs we can’t fill.)

    • Stop insisting that schools can solve all our economic problems. Education is a necessary element of a successful high-tech economy; it’s emphatically necessary to help reduce social inequities, and imperative for civic and humanistic understanding and democratic unity. But it’s not enough in a high-tech global market where many jobs can be sent overseas at the click of a mouse. (Screw school when you can earn a living wage at Denny’s and dumpster dive for desert. By making school less important, we can focus our education efforts on the social elite who we’ll need around to keep us safe from ourselves. I’m filing for elite status. My GPA was way better than Kerry’s and Bush’s so I should be President! Hey John, pass the ketchup.)

    Note I said “should be President.” No election, please, it might hurt my self esteem. I deserve to be President. I was even born in Pittsburgh. Now where did I put my Heinz Pickle pin? I’m heading over to the Ice House, I mean the Heinz History Center, for a photo-op. Gotta look the part, you know!

  2. ragnarok says:

    Alan, I couldn’t agree more with you.

    If India has a large class of well-educated people, it’s at least in part because people understand that education is a serious business and have no time for self-esteem and similar rubbish. Students work very hard (some too hard, IMHO) because they know that life will be tough if they don’t get excellent grades. They feel bad when they do badly and great when they do well – which is as it should be.

    Note too that the view from inside India is more nuanced; not everyone is super-qualified. Better headlines, though, to pretend that it’s a vast monolithic block.

  3. Foobarista says:

    The only point is that we do have a tendency to figure that education can solve _everything_. This is what gets us into trouble, IMO: instead of remembering that education is about learning, it is used for social engineering and leftoid propaganda about “social justice” and to value working towards “social change”. If we leave this silliness outside the classroom, we’ll be far better off…

    At the national level, there are actually quite a number of countries with decent education systems which don’t do well economically for other reasons; the Philippines is a good example. Also, when looking at China for example, we tend to be focusing on top schools in Beijing or Shanghai and thinking that they are somehow representative; this is like looking at schools in Palo Alto, CA or rich areas in Connecticut and thinking they are representative of typical American schools.

  4. Education isn’t everything.

  5. Alan-

    You may want to rethink your single-payer health care plan. Canada’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the system was so defective that Canadians had the right to purchase private health care insurance. I’m not a big fan of the single payer system. Will send you some links if you want.

  6. Stephen D says:

    Actually if you read Alan’s post you will see he is clearly not a fan of a single-payer health care plan. It’s Peter Schrag who is the misguided liberal.

  7. There are many jobs in allied health that require only 2 years of education and have high salaries (70-80K starting). Education does not a priori guarantee that you will be able to find work. Appropriate education and job experience might.

    I would say that having expertise in a skill that must be performed in person (teaching, medicine, electrical wiring, and plumbing) or having great business and people skills are the only ways to have true job security.

    MacDonalds has started outsourcing – in some cases, your drive through order is handled by someone in another state in a call center that sends the order to the kitchen of the restaraunt where you are ordering. Weird!

  8. Rich —

    I was actually thinking about the ruling in Canada when I was ranting. I guess failed in stating (ranting) my message. It is truly sad when a court says a system is so bad that there needs to be options around the law. I was under the impression that a system like Canada’s is what this Moron wanted.

    I have not seen a single plan by social liberals that makes what we have better (at least for people that pay into the system). My wife is an RN and works at an “Emergi-Care” type clinic. Many of her patients DEMAND prescriptions for Tylenol or Ibuprophen. If it is prescription, they get it FREE from MediCal or Medicare. Tylenol and Ibuprophen are cheap, especially the generic brands, I know I buy a lot of it. She has seen more than one of these patients drive away in a Mercedes or Cadillac. No wonder they want free medical care — they spent their income on a luxury car. She also has some “Frequent Flyers,” known drug addicts that have the symptoms of debilitating pain wired. “I need Demerol.” When the Doctor prescribes Toridol (non-narcotic), they complain they are allergic to it; just like I’m allergic to morning, sheesh! Fearing law-suits, the Doctors yield and guess what? The patients can’t remember their Social Security Numbers. Or phone numbers. Or address. Free Medical care again. Free for them, at least. Some frequent flyers do leave with their shopping carts, but occasionally they’ll leave in a Mercedes or Cadillac (sometimes even as a passenger.) At the same clinic, six stitches over my left eye cost $350 (I had a Darwin moment.) AND I HAD TO BUY MY OWN TYLENOL. Thank God for endorphins.

    Abuse of our current system is a huge problem. I’ll bet if we fix the abuse we won’t need to change anything else. If more people want coverage, fine – so long as they pay premiums like I do. For those few that, through no fault of their own, need critical medical care, I believe everyone will gladly pay their fair share. I’m OK with Government care for crack babies (if not returned to their mothers) or the severely retarded but not cancer treatment for a smoker that can’t cover the cost.

    I just saw Ivory’s note — I ABSOLUTELY favor vocational training in high school and community colleges in lieu of college prep. The loss of wood shop and metals in high school is a sorry statement. Some kids are never going to go to college. That does not make them stupid. Vocational skills are still very much needed and can even be a foundation for job advancement! But that is more, not less education.

  9. alan wrote:

    Abuse of our current system is a huge problem. I’ll bet if we fix the abuse we won’t need to change anything else.

    Neat trick if you can manage it. Any thoughts on how to “fix the abuse”?

  10. Allen —

    I wish I had a simple answer. From what I have learned from my wife’s case management experience (between jobs as a floor Nurse) insurance case managers help on the long, protracted cases. She personally witnessed a case that led to a bust of a doctor that was making $2 million a year on phony physical therapy prescriptions — he owned the practice and the organization that offered the therapy. But the smaller cases are the killers, from what I have seen.

    I think a start would be to shield Doctors from lawsuits if they refuse to administer treatment they feel is medically unnecessary. That would take care of the Frequent Flyers. Another thing that could be done is to refuse non-emergency, and I mean blood and guts emergencies, not a 3:00 AM ingrown toe-nail, treatment without an insurance ID, a valid credit card, a social security number or some other means to hold the patient responsible for payment of services rendered.

    Yes, there are shades of gray and I’m getting way out of my field here. I just hear about my wife’s patients and KNOW the abuse is rampant. I think government acknowledging that would be a big step toward making much more educated choices for repairing the system. I think everything I have seen offered up has been a band-aid covering a festering wound. If you don’t kill the infection, the band-aid is a waste.

    More education again…I’ll bet a lot of people out of the medical industry do not realize the fraud, waste and abuse that exist.

  11. ragnarok says:

    Is the government really interested in getting rid of fraud, waste and abuse? I ask this seriously, not as a rhetorical question. I’m sceptical; much easier to express shock and anger, ask for more funding to root out this fraud, and then quietly go back to business.

  12. alan wrote:
    Another thing that could be done is to refuse non-emergency, and I mean blood and guts emergencies

    That’s a third of it. Change the law so ERs can tell anyone not in need of critical care to provide proof of insurance or a credit card, otherwise stop wasting space in the waiting room.

    Tort reform is another third(cap punitive damages). The final third is drugs. The drug companies need to stop caving in to the extortion of foreign governments.

  13. alan wrote:

    I wish I had a simple answer.

    That’s a gratifying admission but flawed. The assumption is that there is an answer.

    I don’t think there is.

    I think that single-payer, like public education, has an inherent flaw and no amount of tinkering can, ultimately, save either one. Since both are a type of “commons” they both invite the inevitable “Tragedy of the Commons”.

    There are only two ways to avoid the tragedy of the commons. The first is to not create a commons. The second is to change human nature.

  14. I can’t get to Schrag’s article but it seems he is a leftist.

    So the US creates more jobs than can be filled so we import people and export jobs. India and Mexico educate more people than they can employ so they export people and import jobs. The policies that create jobs are not the policies favored by the left. Make it easy to fire people and entrepreneurs will take chances in hiring people. Protect property from confiscatory taxation and a capricious legal system and people will create wealth. Keep transfer payments to a minimum level and people will take care of themselves and educate the next generation to care for themselves in their old age. Cultivate honesty and a spirit of public service in a civil service that performs only essential public tasks. Remove tax and regulatory barriers that limit the size of markets and the efficiency of businesses. Encourage religion and foster public morality.

    Also, we must be careful about defining education too narrowly. Schools play only a small role in the education of children. Cognitive skills are certainly valuable but integrity and a sense of duty to God, one’s family, the neighborhood, the next generation and one’s country are priceless. Ultimately, our prosperity and our freedoms rest on our character as a people.